It’s been nearly three years since I’ve had lunch with Kirk Tuck, a professional photographer and prolific blogger who lives in Austin. Occasionally, we would run into each other, often at Precision Camera, because Precision is ground zero for photographers in Central Texas. The last time, Kirk and his son met over lunch with my son and I, for some much-needed wisdom about picking a college. Time flies faster these days. Kirk’s son is already gainfully employed and my son is wrapping up his sophomore year.
A two-day staycation afforded me time to catch up with friends and run errands. On a whim, I emailed Kirk if he’s free for lunch. A “Yes” arrived remarkably fast. I’m always hesitant to ask since I know Kirk runs his own business, which can become very hectic. I had luckily ping him on a quiet day. We decided on Maudie’s Cafe on the edge of downtown.
Conversations with Kirk always revolves around photography, of course, but branches into multiple related topics. We talk art, philosophy and cameras. Kirk was sporting his newest love, a Fuji with a manual lens. Was it a X-E3? I, embarrassingly, had four with me; but they were all small. The largest was my go to Olympus PEN-F with a 50mm equivalent lens. I quickly took it out to show him and snap the picture above. I also had two compact cameras and a fourth, very unique camera, which I’ll talk about soon. By the way, people who have subscribed to my free newsletter already know what unique camera I’m talking about. I featured it on my inaugural edition.
I also brought along a copy of my first book, which was sort of apropos. You see, it was Kirk that really got me into street photography and street portraits back in 2010. He organized an impromptu anti-workshop in San Antonio which hooked me. The book, in many ways, is a culmination of eight years of practice that was set in motion by Kirk.
Kirk has always patiently looked at my photos and gave encouraging words. When we first met, I was squarely in my HDR urban landscape and architecture phase. He was complimentary and noted that my HDRs look rather realistic and not like the “technicolor clown vomit” which was the fashion of the day. My portrait attempts did not garner praise, understandably. They weren’t very good.
We talked about the state of the camera industry. “What do you think?”, he asked. I wasn’t worried. The industry will continue to shrink, most likely, and just cater to the professionals and serious enthusiasts. And, I added, even if they never came out with any new cameras, there are so many good old cameras on the used market. Sure, would I like a faster and more accurately focusing wonder camera? Yes. But the reality is, it ain’t necessary; I’m doing fine with what I got. Though, I must emphatically state that I reserve the right to still buy new cameras that may strike my fancy.
Incredibly, we were engrossed for three hours, moving seamlessly from topic to topic. It was the kind of experience that can never be replicated by social media or any whiz-bang technology. Face to face conversation should never go out of style. I felt guilty for taking up so much time, but he assured me that he didn’t have any impending appointments.
A few days later, Kirk wrote probably the nicest thing anybody has ever written about me. I was floored. He really did like my little book. If the “likes” you get on social media are little drips of addictive dopamine, what Kirk wrote was a five gallon bucket splashed over my head. I think I still haven’t completely recovered.
Though Kirk and I never had a mentor/mentee relationship, I look up to him in so many ways. He’s a wonderful photographer, especially for his emotive black and white portraits. I didn’t realize this until I just wrote that previous sentence, but perhaps my attempts at black and white portraits are influenced by him. In addition, he’s a fantastic writer and blogger. Finally, he’s a successful business person in a tough field. What I do is easy. I’m just an enthusiast taking pictures for fun. I can’t fathom the skills necessary to make a living at it. Something that Kirk has done for multiple decades.
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